Greetings from the Capitol,
It seems like winter is finally in our rearview mirror! Hopefully you made it through unharmed, but if you are a farmer who experienced damage to your barns due to extreme cold, ice, sleet, and snow, you should know that we recently granted approval to the Rural Finance Authority to authorize zero-interest disaster relief loans to help you through the cleanup process. If you have any questions, please contact me.
Combatting Minnesota’s opioid crisis
According to state data, Minnesota’s opioid crisis is still getting worse. Opioid-linked deaths increased from 2016 to 2017, just like visits to the emergency room caused by overdoses. Innovative public-private pilot programs have successfully reduced prescriptions and weaned addicts off drugs at a number of Minnesota health care facilities, but those small steps forward represent only a fraction of the overall problem. Opioid addiction still poses a serious risk to communities and families throughout the state of Minnesota.
The Senate recently passed a bill to attack the opioid problem head on. Our bill creates an Opioid Epidemic Response Account, to be funded by fees collected from pharmaceutical companies and opioid distributors. The account would fund a variety of treatment and prevention initiatives.
Other highlights of the bill:
- Significant funding for county-administered social services to help kids who have been subjected to child abuse or neglect due to parental addiction.
- Stronger restrictions on opiate prescriptions and refills.
- Prescription monitoring program to prevent over-prescribing and “doctor shopping.”
- Public awareness, prevention, and education programs.
- Statewide access to effective treatment and recovery services.
- Continuing education for opioid prescribers.
- Research and development of evidence-based treatment programs.
- Stronger reporting by pharmaceutical companies.
- Money for increased law enforcement in Greater Minnesota to stop illicit drug trafficking.
Budget Proposal: Accessibility, Affordability, and Accountability
Senate Republicans recently announced the budget targets we will use to construct our biannual general fund budget proposal for FY2020-21. Every odd-numbered year, the legislature and governor are tasked with putting together a complete and balanced state budget. As you can imagine, this can be a challenging process, especially in a split government, but we successfully worked with Governor Dayton for eight years and I am confident we will have the same success working with Governor Walz and the Democrat majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The Senate Republican approach focuses on improving accessibility, affordability, and accountability in the ways you interact with your government and the state, without asking you to pay more taxes. To help you easily find more specifics about the budget proposal and breakdowns by spending area, you can visit our budget website at www.mnsenaterepublicans.com/budget.
Senate Republicans are committed to making government more affordable, more accessible, and more accountable for the people of Minnesota. As I have met with concerned citizens throughout the district and at my office in St. Paul, I have noticed a few recurring themes – “health insurance is too expensive;” “it’s too hard to find childcare;” “I don’t want to pay higher gas taxes or tab fees.” Our budget proposal addresses Minnesotans’ priorities, but doesn’t ask them to pay more than they already are.
Transportation funding, and specifically the governor’s proposed 20-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, is one of the most controversial topics at the legislature this session. In 2017, Senate Republicans successfully worked in a bipartisan manner to authorize billions of dollars in funding for transportation, including additional permanent, on-going funding for roads and bridges by redirecting existing transportation-related revenue. Governor Walz’s budget reverses that bipartisan work and shifts about $230 million away from roads and bridges every year. To fill this hole in his budget proposal, the governor chose to raise the gas tax, tab fees, motor vehicle sales taxes, and more. However, data shows that relying on the gas tax is not the best approach as revenue from the gas tax begins to decline each year starting in 2023.
The plan proposed by Senate Republicans dedicates approximately $8.12 billion over the next two years to Minnesota roads, bridges, transit, and transportation debt service. The permanent funding comes from current gas tax revenue, tab fees, bonding, and the general fund. Under current law and without the gas tax increase or other fee increases, Minnesota’s transportation funding system will receive over $530 million in increased state revenue over the next two years due to automatic increases in the system.
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As always, your feedback is extremely important to me and I encourage you to share your input on the issues being discussed here at the Capitol. If you have any questions, thoughts, or ideas, please send me an email at email@example.com or call my Capitol office at 651-296-5649. It’s a great honor to serve as your State Senator.